Ante-post favourite Blaklion headlines 105 excellent entries for the £1-million Randox Health Grand National at Aintree on Saturday, April 14 – the 171st running.
Staged over four and a quarter miles and 30 fences, the Randox Health Grand National is the world’s richest and greatest chase – the highlight of Aintree’s famous three-day Randox Health Grand National Festival.
Last year’s fourth Blaklion, one of six entries for dual Grand National-winning trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies, looked as good as ever on his latest start as he powered to a nine-length victory over The Last Samuri (Kim Bailey, 20/1 with Betway) in the G3 Randox Health Becher Handicap Chase (3m 2f) over the Grand National fences on December 9. He is the 10/1 favourite with Betway, official betting partner of the Randox Health Grand National Festival.
The Last Samuri, who was second to Rule The World in the 2016 Grand National, finished an excellent fourth behind likely top-weight Definitly Red (Brian Ellison, 20/1) in the G2 BetBright Trial Cotswold Chase (3m 2f) at Cheltenham on January 27.
Thanks to the victories of Earth Summit (1998) Bindaree (2002), Twiston-Davies is the only current trainer to have won the Grand National more than once. His 2018 entries also include multiple G1 winner Bristol De Mai (25/1), also a candidate for top-weight, BetVictor Gold Cup hero Splash Of Ginge (50/1) and Aintree G1 scorer Flying Angel (66/1).
Britain’s champion Jump trainer Nicky Henderson has three contenders in Gold Present (25/1), who wore down Frodon to land a Listed handicap chase at Ascot before Christmas, Vyta Du Roc (33/1) and O O Seven (66/1) as he seeks a first victory in the Randox Health Grand National.
Ireland’s champion Jump trainer Willie Mullins accounts for 10 of the 40 Irish-trained entries, with his double handful headed by Ladbrokes Trophy victor Total Recall (25/1), Polidam (40/1) and promising novice Rathvinden (40/1).
Mullins’ big rival in Ireland, Gordon Elliott, landed the Grand National with Silver Birch (2007) in his first season with a training license. Elliott also has a 10-strong team which features Troytown Handicap Chase victor Mala Beach (50/1) and three-time G1 winner Outlander (40/1).
Outlander is one of 11 possible contenders for owner Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown House Stud, successful with Rule The World in 2016, while J P McManus’ seven entries include last year’s runner-up Cause Of Causes (Gordon Elliott, 25/1), G1 Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup second Minella Rocco (Jonjo O’Neill, 66/1) and Paddy Power Handicap Chase victor Anibale Fly (33/1). McManus saw his famous colours carried to success in the 2010 Grand National by Don’t Push It.
Worcestershire handler Dr Richard Newland, who tasted Grand National glory with Pineau De Re in 2014, has another eye-catching Irish import among the entries in the Abolitionist (40/1).
Abolitionist captured the valuable Leinster National Handicap Chase at Naas in March before finishing third behind Our Duke in the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse, when trained by Ellmarie Holden.
The 10-year-old, who is now part-owned by Pineau De Re’s owner John Provan, has not raced since finishing down the field next time out in a handicap hurdle at Killarney in August.
Newland revealed: “Abolitionist is coming back from an injury. We got him in the autumn and then he had an issue with a stress fracture.
“He is on the way back now and doing really nicely. He is a nice horse who shows a good attitude and we are pleased to have him.
“We are stepping up his work and hope to have him on the track towards the end of February. Then all being well, he will go on to Aintree for the Randox Health Grand National.
“He could have a spin over hurdles at Ascot on February 17 or there is a veterans’ chase at Doncaster on February 21.
“The rules have changed, so he has to run in a chase this season to be qualified. If he starts off over hurdles, then he would run again over fences in March.”
Other Grand National-winning trainers with 2018 entries include Paul Nicholls, whose sextet of possible runners is headed by dual Scottish Grand National victor Vicente (25/1), and Mouse Morris, who has Irish Grand National scorers Rogue Angel (50/1) and Thunder And Roses (40/1) among his three entries.
Vicente’s owner Trevor Hemmings has won the Grand National three times since 2005 and is the joint most successful trainer in the history of the world’s greatest chase. His other entry is Welsh Grand National fourth Vintage Clouds (Sue Smith, 40/1).
Welsh Grand National hero Raz De Maree (Gavin Cromwell IRE, 40/1) is engaged, as is impressive G3 Classic Handicap Chase victor Milansbar (Neil King, 50/1).
Randox Health Grand National – latest odds from Betway, official betting partner of the Randox Health Grand National Festival:
20/1 Minella Rocco, The Last Samuri, Definitly Red
25/1 Gold Present, Cause Of Causes, Vicente, Total Recall, Bristol De Mai
33/1 As De Mee, Vyta Du Roc, Ucello Conti, Carole’s Destrier, Vieux Lion Rouge, Go Conquer, Gas Line Boy, Anibale Fly, Poormans Hill
40/1 Cogry, Childrens List, Delusionofgrandeur, Double Ross, Sub Lieutenant, Outlander, Pleasant Company, Polidam, Bellshill, A Genie In Abottle, Vintage Clouds, Warriors Tale, Henri Parry Morgan, Rathvinden, The Dutchman, American, Thunder And Roses, Wild West Wind, Three Faces West, Raz De Maree, Abolitionist, Chase The Spud, The Young Master, Saint Are, Acapella Bourgeois
50/1 Wounded Warrior, I Just Know, Noble Endeavor, Tiger Roll, Out Sam, Final Nudge, Mala Beach, Pendra, Splash Of Ginge, Buywise, Bravissimo, Vieux Morvan, Beeves, Arbre De Vie, Valseur Lido, Regal Encore, Sizing Codelco, Road To Riches, Rock The Kasbah, Rogue Angel, Milansbar, Sametegal, Seeyouatmidnight, Sir Mangan, Silsol
66/1 Shantou Flyer, Relentless Dreamer, Perfect Candidate, Pairofbrowneyes, O O Seven, Mysteree, Missed Approach, Minella Daddy, Maggio, Third Intention, Lord Windermere, Krackatoa King, General Principle, Alpha Des Obeaux, Traffic Fluide, Carlingford Lough, Captain Redbeard, Vic De Touzaine, Braqueur D’Or, Bonny Kate, Bless The Wings, Ballyalton, Virgilio, Baie Des Iles, Walk In The Mill, Morning Assembly, Flying Angel
100/1 Edwulf, Thebarrowman, Alfie Spinner, Long House Hall, Knock House, Phil’s Magic, Houblon Des Obeaux, Goodtoknow, Dancing Shadow, Tenor Nivernais
The entry figure has broken the 100-mark for the fourth time in the last five years – entry details since 2010 are as follows:- 2018-105; 2017-110, 2016-126, 2015-98; 2014-115; 2013-84; 2012-82; 2011-102 and 2010-112.
The weights for the 2018 Randox Health Grand National, framed personally by the British Horseracing Authority’s Head of Handicapping, Phil Smith, will be unveiled on the evening of Tuesday, February 13, at BAFTA in London’s West End.
The Randox Health Grand National is the only handicap of the year where Smith has absolute discretion to deviate from the normal handicap ratings when determining the weights.
A maximum of 40 runners can go to post at 5.15pm on Saturday, April 14.
John Baker, Regional Director, The Jockey Club Racecourses North West, said: “We are delighted with the excellent quality of entries for the 2018 Randox Health Grand National, which once again offers a total prize fund of £1 million.
“It is also pleasing to break the 100-barrier for the fourth time in five years in terms of the number of entries and we continue to receive very strong support from Ireland.
“The 2018 Randox Health Grand National Festival offers record prize money of £3.21 million and preparations are well underway at Aintree for what will be an outstanding three days of racing.
“We are now eagerly anticipating the unveiling of the weights for the world’s greatest chase, with the surroundings of BAFTA in London providing a suitably prestigious backdrop.”